Investigation into recent MIQ absconding incidents released

Published: 10 December 2021

An investigation report into the 7 recent absconding incidents involving 9 people, which took place between 4 October and 6 November 2021, and involved community cases in quarantine facilities, has been released today.

Joint Head of MIQ, Brigadier Rose King said several recommendations have been made, which she welcomes, and action in response to these recommendations is well underway. 

“MIQ has served New Zealand well, helping to bring almost 200,000 people home safely and caring for over 3,500 community cases. Of that large number, we have seen a total of 19 absconder events involving 25 people,” said Brigadier King. 

“Since MIQ has played a larger role in caring for community cases we have seen an increase in behavioural incidents – including absconders or attempted absconding. All 7 absconding events in this report involved community cases.

"Community cases are in different circumstances than returnees. Unlike international arrivals, who have had time to mentally and physically prepare, community cases face a different situation.

“They first are dealing with the shock of being told they are COVID positive and then, at short notice, they have to make arrangements to come into a quarantine facility. This can be enormously stressful and – in some people – this can manifest in poor behaviour. Some are extremely reluctant to enter a facility and it is hard to keep people in if they are determined to leave.

“The MIQ system relies on the willing compliance of the people staying in our facilities. MIQ facilities are not prisons and staff are not prison guards. There are rules in place for every single returnee from overseas and now positive community cases, and we expect people to follow these during their stay. The vast majority of people realise that, by complying with the rules, they are keeping New Zealand safe from new and emerging strains of COVID-19.

“The report didn’t find a single reason behind any of the events but does make several recommendations for improvements, all are either complete or underway, including:

  • General reconsideration of the fencing standard applied to facilities that accommodate community quarantine cases. 
  • De-escalation training for security staff to equip them with the necessary skills to intervene when appropriate.
  • Procedures for discharge of those in facilities to ensure consistent and robust process in place. 
  • Review process for transfers and short-term facility departures.
  • Higher risk individual notifications extended to members of a family bubble as opposed to individuals.

“Over the last few months our processes, information and communication protocols have improved to offer a greater level of understanding and care for community cases. Most recent absconders were caught very quickly thanks to our staff and our security measures. Our security settings have also been reviewed and improved after each absconding event.

“We will continue to ensure that our processes are tightened, where appropriate, and the community is kept as safe as possible from further incidents such as these.”

MIQ Absconder Events Report - into 7 absconder events 4 October – 6 November 2021 [PDF, 522 KB]